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The concept of 'the organism' in Philosophy of Biology

Wednesday 12 May 2010, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Professor Catherine Wilson, University of Aberdeen

Royal Institute of Philosophy public lecture

An organism is, roughly, a living individual. Does the term denote a distinct natural kind that lends itself to meaningful theoretical generalizations?  Or is it instead an anthropic notion--one defined by reference to human needs and interests--or even an anthropomorphic notion? Biologists tend to think that "organism" is a term of art, while philosophers think it is an important fact about the world that it contains organisms.  I'll give some reasons for the disciplinary division.  While siding with the biologists who think no real precision can be given to the term organism,  I'll explore the possibility that the philosophers' conceptualization is basically normative, and that this has both useful and misleading ethical implications.

Location: L/N/002